Pentangle Activity

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Unpacking Sir Gawain and
the Green Knight Symbolism
PENTANGLE ACTIVITY
Why the
Green Knight?
 In medieval England, the
“Green Man” was a pagan
representation of nature. The
“Green Man” was not Satanic,
but did symbolize the nature
worship that characterized preChristian tribal paganism.
 The “Green Man” is not evil,
but is also not Christian. A
battle between any of Arthur’s
knights and any creature
reminiscent of Britain’s pagan
past is, by extension, a battle
between “good” and “evil” – or
between the Christian piety of
Arthur’s knights and their
tribal, non-Christian
predecessors.
Draw a star.
What is a pentangle?
A pentangle (known more commonly as a
pentagram) is the shape of a five-pointed
star drawn with five straight strokes. This
means that the pentangle is infinity. It is also
called the “endless knot.”
 The figure of the five-point star much always
stay upright, with the topmost triangle point to
heaven. The five points are symbolic of the five
wounds of Christ.
 If the figure is reversed, perversion and evil will
result. It can be the symbol of black magic.
Turn to page 76 of
Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight. Read
lines 618-665.
Gawain’s Shield
In the poem, Gawain’s
shield is very clearly
described as a golden
pentangle on a field of
red. The pentangle, the
poem goes on to tell us,
represents Gawain’s
Five Fifths.
In medieval symbology, red signifies
humility as the blood of Christ
Gold signifies perfection.
1
Gawain was said to possess
five qualities – one for each
of the pentangle’s points –
wherein he far
excelled all other knights.
The first of these “Five Fifths”
was his faultlessness in his five
senses.
2
Gawain was said to
possess five qualities
wherein he far excelled
all other knights.
The next (second)
of these “Five
Fifths” was his
faultlessness in his
five fingers.
3
Gawain was said to possess
five qualities wherein he far
excelled all other knights.
The next (third) of
these “Five Fifths” was
the strength Gawain
drew from his devotion
to the “five wounds of
Christ.”
The Jerusalem Cross
1. The wounds
in the hands.
2. The wounds
in the feet.
3. The wound
in the side of
Christ
4
Gawain was said to
possess five qualities
wherein he far excelled all
other knights.
The next (fourth) of
these “Five Fifths”
was the strength
Gawain drew from
his devotion to the
“five joys of Mary.”
The five joys of Mary are also known
as The Five Joyful Mysteries of the
Rosary. They are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
the Annunciation
the Nativity
the Resurrection
the Ascension
the Assumption
5
Gawain was said to
possess five qualities
wherein he far excelled
all other knights.
The last of these
“Five Fifths” was
Gawain’s wellknown practice of
the “five social
graces.”
The five social graces which Gawain
exemplifies above all others are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Love
Friendship
Purity
Courtesy
Pity or Piety
Gawain faced 5 challenges
1. to voluntarily confront the Green Knight
2. to strike his blow properly
3. to keep his vow to meet the Green
Knight in a year and a day.
4. to survive journey to the green chapel
5. to resist the lady’s temptations
More on Gawain’s fifth challenge
The FIFTH TEST is the temptations and the three
gifts; it tests especially the fifth point of the
pentangle, the social virtues. Gawain falls: his
acceptance of the girdle is not a fault; his hiding of
it is a potential fault; his actual withholding of it
from Bertilak is his fall. Had he given it back to the
lady, he would have erased his potential fault. The
real fault, from Gawain's point of view, is that the
reality of his own mortality induces him to break the
endless knot. Thus two effects of original sin are
reasserted: cowardice (bodily mortality) and
covetousness (willful cupidity). His nature as a man
is asserting itself against his nature as a knight.
YOUR TASK:
Pentangle Activity
 You are to create a concrete pentangle
with your understanding of the symbolism
of the pentangle. Incorporate the
symbolism of the Five Fifths that make the
pentangle meaningful to Sir Gawain.
 You will present your pentangle to the
class.
 This assignment is worth 50 points. ;)
 It is due on Monday.
Examples
Examples
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